Get that Wild West feel with Wild Chicory Joe from The Tea Spot

When I think of chicory, I think of my favorite western TV shows and movies.  Why?  Well there wasn’t always a good supply of coffee out on the dusty trail, so chicory would be brewed as a substitute.  Chicory and coffee have a long history together, with chicory stretching or replacing coffee when the latter is hard to come by, from Napoleonic France to the American Civil War.  After these coffee-sparse times, some cultures developed a taste for chicory and still brew it alongside or with their coffee today.

I got a chance to try a cup of Wild Chicory Joe from the Tea Spot.  I’m both a coffee fan and a tea lover, so I can appreciate both sides of this story.

Wild Chicory Joe brewed up super fast, as quick and dark as coffee.  The brew was immediately full and fragrant, smelling like savory toasted grains or roasted nuts, over an undertone of more bitter, dirt-road earthiness.  The first sip was a bit daunting: it’s not coffee, it’s not tea, and my taste buds were not sure what to expect.  As I moved onto a second and third and fourth sip, the flavor grew on me.  Beyond the roasted notes, there were flavors like caramel and malt, and a touch of true coffee on the aftertaste.

I could understand how chicory got its start as a coffee replacement.  This brew is dark and bitter, but with a touch of the bright, citrus notes you find in a blond coffee roast.  Unlike coffee, the chicory isn’t oily, instead it brews up with a smooth mouthfeel and a more herbal flavor.

Maybe I’m channeling my favorite westerns, but this cup is distinctly masculine, with nothing floral or astringent, just deep, bold, bitter – pow!  All that said, the chicory does mellow out with some milk and sweetener so you can mix it like your favorite coffee or tea.  And since the chicory is decaf, you can make a latte at any time of day or night.
If you’re looking to switch  from coffee to chicory, this won’t be an easy transition, the chicory isn’t a perfect coffee replacement (not to mention, you’ll be craving the caffeine).  But if you’re bored with your tea or need a break from your coffee, Wild Chicory Joe will be a fascinating cup to try.  A cup of chicory might just be the perfect accessory to have on hand when watching your favorite western or reading your favorite wild west novel.  Happy trails!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Herbal
Where to Buy: The Tea Spot

Hold onto your hats, coffee lovers! This natural coffee replacement is so darn delicious, you won’t believe your taste buds. Our Wild Chicory Joe brews into a boldly deep herbal tea that masquerades as a strong-brewed cowboy coffee, without any acidity. The roasted chicory root creates a dark espresso base while the chocolate barley malt adds cocoa notes and the fennel adds a little sweetness. Drink it straight or as the bold caffeine-free base for a latte. You might even trick some coffee fanatics into enjoying this cup of herbal tea. Giddy-up and grab some Joe!

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

I Dream of Macchiato Dream from Steeped Tea

I don’t discriminate when it comes to tea and coffee, I like them both, hot and iced, and I often find myself drinking one or the other depending on my mood.  I was very intrigued to try a rooibos tea with real coffee beans mixed in the dry leaf.  Visually, this blend is intriguing, with the fine red grains of rooibos mixed in with dark, roasted coffee beans and chunky cocoa shells.

The smell of this tea is amazing right from the start: there is the sharp, earthy, depth of roasted coffee beans, the sweet decadence of cocoa, and the bright vanilla nuttiness of the red rooibos.  Without even brewing a cup, this tea smells like a mocha dessert or java ice cream.

Brewed hot, the cocoa and coffee take over, completely masking the rooibos.  This can be a benefit– I’m not always in the mood for the particular taste of red rooibos, though its caffeine-free status is hard to beat.  The brewed tea has a smooth mouthfeel, warming and coating my throat, and the sweet flavors almost trick my tongue into thinking we’re having dessert instead of tea.
Even with the coffee beans, there’s not as much caffeine in this blend as other black teas or full-on coffee, so there is more flexibility as to when you can indulge in Macchiato Dream.  I’m not as ambitious as some SororiTea Sisters when it comes to building lattes, but I can already tell that this tea will be a winner when mixed with milk and sweetener.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Rooibos
Where to Buy: Steeped Tea
Switch from coffee to tea. Bold caramel flavor with coffee beans.
Ingredients: Rooibos tea, cocoa bean bits, coffee beans, natural flavors.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Bake a Valentine’s Cake to Go With Your Tea

Valentine’s Day.  A time for everything pink and rosy.  Strawberries and chocolate galore. If you are looking to recreate that sweet, romantic, dessert feeling I would recommend brewing up a cup of Chocolate Covered Strawberries by Shuswap Infusions. This black and oolong blend has dark chocolate and strawberry notes, and it even has flower petals in the dry leaf.

Whether you’re celebrating yourself or being cute with a sweetheart, it’s hard to go wrong with chocolate.  So I recommend making an old family recipe (that we clearly just took from the King Arthur Flour cookbook) for a super-easy, super-tasty, one-pan vegan mocha cake.  Trust me, even those of you who are baking-impaired can make this one.  We call it the Stir-Crazy Cake.

For best results, mix the ingredients in the pan from which you will serve the cake.  This won’t be a problem if you use a cute heart-shaped pie dish or cake pan for the occasion.

Mix directly in your pan:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix dry ingredients with a whisk or fork.

Make three wells (three divots or holes) in the dry ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients into the wells, only one ingredient into each well:

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Pour 1 cup cold coffee over all ingredients.  If you don’t want a mocha cake, just use cold water instead.  [For those kitchen-oriented mad scientists out there, maybe adding a cold cup of your favorite dessert or strawberry tea could be a nice substitute as well.  I haven’t experimented myself, but now I’m  curious to try it… ]

Stir all the ingredients together until well blended.  Really make sure you mix the cake (hence the “Stir-Crazy” name).  Get all the dry ingredients mixed in from the bottom and edges of the pan.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, without any crumbs.

Serve straight from the pan to your plate.  If you’re getting overloaded from chocolate, brew up something sweet and fruity to go with the cake, maybe a classic like Raspberry Zinger from Celestial Seasonings to help balance out the dark chocolate decadence.
Happy baking!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black/Oolong
Where to Buy: Shuswap Infusions

Just in time for Valentines Day! The name of this tea is just as delicious as it sounds. For a real treat, serve it as a latte garnished with shaved chocolate

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Product Review: White Chocolate with Jumpy Monkey Yerba Mate from DAVIDsTEA

White Chocolate with Jumpy Monkey Yerba MateTea Information:

Leaf Type: Yerba Mate/Chocolate

Where to Buy: DAVIDsTEA

Tea Description:

Looking for a rich and decadent pick-me-up? Check out this deliciously creamy chocolate bar, a combination of the finest imported white chocolate and our java-spiked Jumpy Monkey tea. With yerba mate, cocoa nibs and coffee beans, it makes for an exotic taste of the rainforest at its finest. Made in partnership with a Montreal chocolatier.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve had this tea before as a latte, and as far as I can remember it wasn’t too impressive. Kind of run of the mill, actually? However I was still pretty pumped to see it in chocolate bar format at the store yesterday because, first off, I love white chocolate though also because even though I’m not a huge fan of coffee I have a special place in my heart for white chocolate coated coffee beans. My Dad used to buy them in bulk, and late at night I’d sneak into the kitchen (when I was around eleven) and eat small handfuls out of the bag in the pantry. And of course, I’d have problems falling asleep after that…

However, this is a slight let down if I’m being honest. I mean, the white chocolate is really good! I love the white chocolate that DAVIDsTEA uses for these chocolate bars. The problem, for me, is that it really over powers the flavour of the tea/coffee. It doesn’t help part of the profile of this tea is white chocolate in the first place. I’m conflicted by this. One thing I dislike about DAVIDsTEA’s chocolate bars is that the infused chunks are often too large but in this rare occasion I really wanted more large pieces because without them the tea is lost. I wish there was a better way to ensure a more consistent size for the pieces used in these chocolate bars, but I don’t know what the best way to go about finding it would be. However, it does at least seems like DAVIDsTEA is trying to do that because these newer bars do at least seem to consistently use smaller pieces and I know that was something that was really being criticized prior to the change. So I commend them for that.

But without the flavour of the tea, this is just a super expensive white chocolate bar.

Chocolate Cherry Latte Oolong Green from A Quarter to Tea

chocolatecherrylatteTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong/Green

Where to Buy: A Quarter To Tea

Tea Description:

Roasty enough to appease the coffee lover in you! The blend of hojicha and oolong makes a robust, coffee like base without the jitters. Mellowed out with chicory, chocolate, and cherries. What could be a better start to the morning?

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

A Quarter to Teas is a fairly new tea store selling on Etsy that feautues seasonal and limited edition blends such as the blend I’m trying now and many other unique flavours like Strawberry Jalapeno Salsa. The owner, Lauren, was kind enough to send a few samples my way. I have to say my email correspondence with Lauren was incredibly impressive – she was so prompt in replying to my messages and very pleasant overall. Without even taking a sip of tea yet, I’m already impressed with the company on the grounds of their customer service alone.

That said, getting into the tea itself this smells AMAZING. I was totally expecting more of a coffee/chocolate with a subtle cherry because most blends that attempt to do cherry blends in which the cherry isn’t the sole flavour never really nail it. Instead, the smell is indicating this will be the opposite: cherry tea with more subtle coffee and chocolate. I am SO on board with that idea!

And I am so gleeful right now because the taste of the infused tea IS very strongly cherry! And it’s not some kind of gross cough syrup cherry either! Instead it’s sweet, dark cherry. So yummy and indulgent! Of course, there’s more going on here aside from the cherry even if that is the element of the tea which I’m most excited about. The chocolate notes come through well too and the pairing is a match made in heaven. However, it’s a little thin and I think that’s probably because this blend uses chocolate chips. If I could make one suggestion it’d be to use either cocoa nibs or shells instead. I think that’d kick the chocolate factor up a lot and also make the mouthfeel a little cleaner. Finally, the “coffee”. Personally I think this is the mildest element of the blend but I’m more that ok with that. As much as I don’t hate coffee and am cool with the flavour being in my tea I still prefer the tea itself to be the most dominant flavour. On that note I definitely taste the hojicha more than the oolong. I really love the idea of pairing the hojicha with the oolong as well; it ups the roasty notes up quite a bit and adds a whole new layer of flavour into the tea.

This tea is absolutely phenomenal! I’m very impressed, and I really look forward to trying the rest of my samples from Lauren. As far as first impressions go, this was a really good one.